Bullet Links Lawrence of Arabia to Famous Ambush

The bullet places Lawrence of Arabia at the scene of a train ambush in Saudi Arabia in 1917.

The early 20th-century British military leader T.E. Lawrence, widely known as "Lawrence of Arabia" for allying with and advising Arab forces fighting against Ottoman Turks, wrote about taking part in a train ambush in Saudi Arabia in 1917 that proved to be a pivotal skirmish during the Arab revolution.

In the decades since Lawrence published the memoir "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" describing his wartime experiences, critics have accused him of exaggerating or even falsifying his participation in certain events. For instance, some biographers have said he embellished his role in the Hallat Ammar train ambush, recognized by historians as a clash that helped define tactics used in modern guerilla warfare.

But now, archaeologists have discovered a piece of evidence that appears to place Lawrence at the scene of the ambush. It's not quite a "smoking gun," but it's the next best thing - a bullet fired from a Colt 1911 automatic pistol, a gun that Lawrence was known to have carried. [Photos: The Oldest Known Evidence of Warfare Unearthed]

Oldest Natural Pearl Found in Arabia

A distinctive weapon That type of gun was unlikely to have been used by anyone else at the ambush, said archaeologist Nicholas Saunders, one of the leaders of the team that investigated the site. Saunders co-directs the Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP), whose members have excavated a number of Arabian Desert locations where key battles were fought during the Arab Revolt between 1916 and 1918.

A Jordanian army escort accompanied Saunders and his team during their work on the ambush site, which lies in a demilitarized zone between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. A metal detector led the researchers to the bullet, Saunders told Live Science in an email.

Though the bullet was clearly different from the hundreds of other expended cartridges at the site, the archaeologists didn't recognize the find's significance right away, Saunders said. Handgun experts on the team conferred with an international network of specialists to identify the bullet as originating from a Colt 1911 automatic pistol, rather than from a rifle or other pistol of British, German or Turkish make that accounted for most of the spent ammunition the researchers found.

"It was the only Colt 1911 bullet found at Hallat Ammar," Saunders said, adding that Lawrence was the only person known to carry one of these guns during the ambush.

Photos: Bronze-Age Battle Frozen in Time

Another recent find by Saunders' team further bolstered the credibility of Lawrence's Hallat Ammar ambush accounts: a train nameplate that Lawrence took as a souvenir and gave to a friend's family, and which had been lost for nearly 80 years, Saunders said.

Most of the train ambushes led by Lawrence would have happened too quickly to allow him time to safely collect a memento, Saunders said. But the lengthier Hallat Ammar ambush, which involved two locomotives, could have provided Lawrence with the time he needed to remove an engine's plate.

GARP's archaeological efforts, originally slated for three years, have extended for nearly a decade.

"We wanted to understand and investigate the landscape in which modern guerrilla warfare had been ‘invented' and to see if it was possible to find archaeological evidence of this," Saunders told Live Science, adding, "We found far more than we originally thought."

Original article on Live Science.

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The bullet that archaeologists said was likely fired by T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") from his Colt 1911 pistol during the Hallat Ammar train ambush on Sept. 19, 1917.

Oct. 14, 2010

-- Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, assistant professor at the department of physics of Turin's Polytechnic University used Google satellite maps and AstroFracTool, an astronomical image-processing program which she developed, to investigate over 463 square miles of land around Peru's Titicaca Lake. Enhanced satellite imagery suggest that some land forms were not only the remains of extensive agricultural systems, but also designs made to represent birds, snakes and other animals.

Built by excavating parallel canals and piling the earth to form long and low mounds, the raised fields feature different forms and sizes. Sparavigna believes that ancient Andean people created these elaborate earthworks by following the natural slope of the terrain and incorporating symbolic shapes.

This appears to be an image of a bird, where a circular pond is the eye.

Sparavigna says this shape could represent an armadillo.

This resembles the head of a snake, with a forked tongue and a pond as its eye.

This land appears to have been shaped in the form of a flamingo head.

Sometimes a geoglyph can be difficult to interpret. Sparavigna believes this image looks like a tortoise or a fish.

The researcher interpreted this land form to be the head of a bird. The beak is touching an old dry channel.

According to Sparavigna, modern cultivations pose the main threat to the the preservation of the ancient structures.